BETHESDA, Md. — Saturday at Congressional was not the first time Tiger Woods has played before so few fans.
There were those 6 a.m. practice rounds at the British Open. Or the occasional PGA Tour event where fans were evacuated because of a thunderstorm and hardly anyone returned at twilight when play resumed. There surely was the odd junior event he played when he was 8.
But teeing off in the late afternoon at the AT&T National, on a steamy but sun-filled day on a fabled course in a golf-mad area like Washington?
Woods had the largest crowd of the day, even though it never topped 100 people. Brendon de Jonge, who had a 2-under 69 to take a one-shot lead, had as many birdies (three) as people in his gallery on a strange, silent Saturday at Congressional.
A violent wind storm overnight that toppled dozens of trees and littered the course with limbs forced tournament officials to keep spectators and all but the essential volunteers away from Congressional for the third round. Considering the amount of debris, it was amazing they even played.
“I've played in front of people like this,” Woods said. “But not generally for an 18-hole competitive round.”
De Jonge was steady in the sweltering conditions for a third straight round in the 60s, which gave his first 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour. One shot behind were Woods (67), former OSU golfer Bo Van Pelt (67) and S.Y. Noh (69).
De Jonge, a South African going for his first PGA Tour win, made his final birdie on the 12th hole with a wedge out of the rough that climbed over a ridge and settled about 12 feet behind the cup. It was worthy of applause, but there was only one person in the gallery to see it — Kandi Mahan, the wife of Hunter Mahan.
Indeed, this was a day like few others on the PGA Tour.
A few volunteers, tournament staff and club members tagged along after Woods, and provided about the only noise of the round. They watched him and Van Pelt get off to a quick start, and then match pars on the back nine to get close to the lead.
“I told Tiger that was a Bo Van Pelt crowd, so I was used to that,” Van Pelt said. “I was very comfortable with 10 or 15 people watching me play golf. No, it was just nice to get it in. I think we're all fortunate that nobody got hurt out here last night. It's a credit to the grounds staff that they got this golf course ready. I'm sure if you saw pictures of what it looked like at midnight, the fact that we played golf today is a minor miracle.”
De Jonge was at 7-under 206 and will play in the final group with Van Pelt and Woods, who is going for his third win of the year. Woods won the AT&T National the last time it was held at Congressional in 209.
Billy Hurley, the Navy veteran who grew up in the area, had a 66 and was two shots back, along with Mahan, another former OSU golfer, who stumbled to a 73.
Sunday might be a return to normal, at least with the noise, especially with Woods in the final group.
The final round will be threesomes going off both sides, giving the grounds crew even more time to clean up the course. For Saturday, it did well to put chain saws to the toppled trees and collects the hundreds of branches scattered across the fairways and pile them up outside the ropes.
It was the debris, along with some loose limbs, that led officials to turn back spectators for the third round. The Saturday tickets will be honored Saturday, which could make Congressional even more raucous.
The third round was anything but that.
“It was like being on the Nationwide Tour again,” Kevin Chappell said after a 72 that left him 4 over.
Mahan was lining up a putt on the second hole when two people were walking up the cart path behind him, forcing caddies to ask them to stop. CBS Sports analyst David Feherty described it best when he said, “They have two people watching, and they're not even watching.”
SENIOR PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP
PITTSBURGH — Mark Calcavecchia shot a 6-under 64 on for a share of the third-round lead with Joe Daley in the Senior Players Championship.
Calcavecchia, the Montreal Championship winner last week, matched Daley at 12-under 198 at Fox Chapel. Daley had a 68.
Second-round leader Fred Couples, the winner last year at Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y., and Tom Lehman were a stroke back. Couples had a 70 while fighting back problems, and Lehman shot a 66. Lehman won the Regions Traditions in his last start.
The tournament is the third of the five Champions Tour majors.
NW ARKANSAS CLASSIC
ROGERS, Ark. — Veronica Felibert shot a 5-under 66 to stretch her lead to four strokes in the LPGA's NW Arkansas Classic.
The rookie from Venezuela continued her surprising run at Pinnacle Country Club, where she made the field as the second alternate. After missing the cuts in her previous three tournaments, she opened with a 65 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead.
Mika Miyazato and Inbee Park were tied for second. Miyazato had a 65, and Park shot 68. Brittany Lang had a 63, the best round of the week, to join Katie Futcher (67), Ai Miyazato (68), Ryann O'Toole (68) and LPGA Championship winner Shanshan Feng (70) at 6 under.
Former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis, a two-time winner this year, was 3 under after a 69.
Top-ranked Yani Tseng, the two-time defending champion and a three-time winner this year, followed her opening 73 with a 74 to miss her first cut in more than a year.
PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — Wales' Jamie Donaldson shot a 3-under 69 Saturday to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Irish Open, while home favorite Rory McIlroy was six shots back.
Donaldson was 12 under at historic Royal Portrush. England's Anthony Wall was second after a 67, and Ireland's Padraig Harrington (72) and Mark Foster (73) were 10 under.
McIlroy had a 71.